Joy

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I got a weird and wonderful call this week.

The area code was 910.  I recognized it because it is the same as my parents’.  On my phone screen the word Fayetteville popped up. Most people would not get excited by that word.  My hometown does not have the most exciting nor stellar reputation.  But for me, when I imagine that city, I just get all warm and tingly inside.

The voicemail was jumbled and cut off a few seconds into the call.  But I could clearly make out the name, and I surely recognized the voice.

“Danny, this is Joy from Fayetteville.  I saw a picture of you on Facebook and…”

Joy!

Joy was the pianist and a youth leader at my church when I was growing up.  Although old to us at the time, she was probably early thirties, she was so stinkin’ cool.  She was one of few adults who let my friends and me call her by her first name:  Joy.  How fitting.  She brought a ton of it to me.

In many ways, I was an insecure teen, not quite sure what to think of myself or my place in the world.  I did not peak in high school – that is an understatement – I didn’t even slightly ascend.  But Joy and Doug and Kim and Mike and Mr. Lundy and Mrs. Byrd and Miss Patty hurled themselves into my life with the full intent of helping me to discover all that I had that was good.  I’m sure it was a chore – like finding a pineapple tree growing in the Alaskan Tundra.

It didn’t seem to bother them that I was imperfect.  Sometimes I cussed.  Once I led the brigade of boys on a youth retreat in a full on mooning convention.  We pulled our pants down every single time a girl in our group walked by and even mooned passersby from the church bus windows.  These adults showed me love and compassion and how to invest in the lives of those around you.

Because of my work at the YMCA, I often read articles on how to insure that children grow up with a strong self-esteem and the ability to be productive members of society.  Having adults outside of your family who care about you is a key factor in accomplishing those goals.

I am thankful for Joy and for my church that poured into me for so many years.  I am thankful for the adults who have done the same for my kids.

Now, it’s my turn.

 

The Ninja Masseur

I don’t often get massages.  It is a rare treat.  I once got one in Hawaii.  It was a Lomi Lomi massage.  The woman straddled me on the table.  I nearly had a heart attack.  I thought she was going to murder me.

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to get another.  It was 80 minutes long – also unusual for me.  I’m more used to the hour-long.

This quiet, sort of timid masseur greeted me and escorted me to the room.  It was there he asked me a plethora of questions before I was instructed to “disrobe to my level of comfort” and crawl on the table.

I discovered why this place encouraged an 80 minuter.  It is because he took 20 minutes asking me questions.

“Do you have any medical issues I should be aware of?”

“Is the music choice OK?”

“Is the volume level to your liking?”

“Is the sun bothering your eyes?”

“Do you want the fan on?”

“Do you want me to open the blind?”

“Is the head of the table tilted to your liking?  Is the foot of the table tilted to your liking?”

DUDE!  My liking is for you to rub my back like you’re doing laundry on the prairie!  STOP ASKING QUESTIONS AND GET TO WORK!

“One more question:  Do you want lilac oil, orange blossom oil or oregano oil?”

“Well I don’t want to smell like a pizza, and I don’t want to fall asleep.  I’ll take the orange.”

Maybe it was cilantro – I can’t remember.  But it was something I’ve cooked with before.

So this tiny man started my massage with me on my back.  He took his little fingers and left his prints all across my forehead.  It was like when my kids made fingerprint Easter Bunnies in preschool.

He then began rubbing my ear lobes.  He spent a seemingly inordinate amount of time messing with my ears.  At one point he gently grabbed the inner cartilage and held down toward the bed.  I tried to raise my head.  I could not.  He had me pinned.  It was an incredibly weird sensation – a 175 pound man being held down by his ears.

It wasn’t long after that I discovered this librarian looking fella could have snapped my head off like a ninja.  Some guys don’t like a rub down from another man.  This is strictly business for me.  If the hands are strong, I don’t care if Jack the Ripper is in charge.

He dug down on the knots in my back with force.  He put my stress to shame.  He belittled my tight little muscles.

He asked me if I wanted my stomach massaged.  I asked if it was included.  I didn’t want to pay extra.  He assured me it was.  Then by all means.  My stomach works really hard.  It deserves some attention.

I was a little concerned that the lint in my bellybutton would mix with the orange oil and create some interesting yarn – but what the heck,  it came with the package.

When I turned onto my stomach half way through the glorious experience, he hung a strap under my nose.

“This is frankincense,” he explained.

Me and the baby Jesus. 

“I prefer myrrh.  JK!”

I don’t think he heard me.

Thankfully he left the sheet on my behind when he went to work on my gluts.  He balled up his fist and beat my butt like a toddler to a table when didn’t get what he wanted for dinner.

I’d seen that in the movies, but I hadn’t been spanked since I was a kid.  Sort of surprised me.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the whole experience was when he hit the small gong at the end of my session.  Doing.  He warned me that when I heard that sound, our time together was complete.

He thanked me for my patronage and swiftly left the room.  Another ninja move.

I sat up on my bruised tail and sipped my raspberry water.

What a lovely day it has been, I thought.

UBER

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When DJ went to college, I told her I would pay for four things:

  1. Her tuition, room and board
  2. Her books
  3. Her transportation
  4. A set amount of spending money each semester

Numbers 1, 2 and 4 have worked out well.  Perhaps I should gave given a bit more clarity around number 3.

What I meant by “I will cover your transportation” was that I would get her back and forth from school.  It’s a 4.5 hour drive one way.  Sometimes I drop her off or pick her up.  Sometimes she flies.  And sometimes she takes the train.  Yes.  I cover those expenses.  I want her to come home – often.  So I’ll pay.

I also figured, up in DC, that she might buy a Metro card to ride the train to Target or to, I don’t know, Mount Vernon.  I am happy to cover that OCCASIONAL expense.

She took our initial conversation in a different direction…

The UBER direction.

Apparently my credit card is attached to her Uber account, and I just received the bill.

In one month, she charged 18 Uber rides.  She also charged seven “car shares” and one $14 Metro ride.  I don’t even know what a “car share” is.  What I do know is that one shared a car to Maryland on November 17 for $35.75 and another shared a ride back on November 18 for $28.88.  Who in the heck was she spending the night with in a different state?  She says it was a Camp Seafarer reunion.  Yada, yada, yada.  I don’t care if she was spending the night with the Pope… he needs to pick her up from campus in his large white window filled bus.

I asked her, “Are you taking Uber across campus to class?  You can’t do that!  You must walk!  That’s part of the college experience.”

She told me she once went to the zoo, and it was educational.

“Well what about the other 17 rides?”

“Dad, there are two charges for every one destination.  You ride there AND back.”

She did have a point.

She then explained that it could have been worse.  She has often been using UberPOOL which sticks you in a car with complete strangers allowing you to split the cost.  In fact, she forwarded me an email she received from email@uber.com.  It said, and I quote,

WOW!  You’re pretty savvy.  By choosing to ride UberPOOL, you saved $95.55 in 2016.  

She should have forwarded that to me because she didn’t save anything by using UberPOOL.  Cause she didn’t pay for Uber.  I DID!!  We had over $180 worth of transportation charges in the month of November.  AHHHH.

I didn’t know I was going to have to include Uber in my monthly expenditures.  Jimini Christmas!  These girls are slowly breaking me into little, bitty pieces.  I’m a shell of the man I used to be.

 

My Banana Clip

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It was a Wednesday morning about 10.  I had an hour to kill before I had to be at my next meeting.  I have not shaved the beard I grew in November for the play we were in.  Two people at work told me they like it.  That’s all the encouragement I need!  My cheeks will never feel the stroke of a razor again.

The problem was my hair was getting a bit squirrely too.  A friend walked into the coffee shop where I was meeting with a co-worker and said I looked like the Unibomber.  Now, this dude shaves from his adam’s apple to the nape of his neck so he clearly prefers the bowling ball look, but I knew he had a point.

I drove across the street to a Wing Cuts or Great Chops or whatever the $12.95 hairdo place was located.  To my dismay, it was closed.  Like, out of business closed, so I needed another option.  Alas, I remembered that there was a shop of some sort beside the fast food Japanese restaurant the girls and I frequent right around the corner.  Maybe I’d be able to smell the Teryaki Chicken while in the chair.

When I drove up, I was a bit intimidated.  It looked more like a salon than a Sports Clips.  It was called E.A. Wells Hair Design.  Fancy schmancy!  I wasn’t sure they would take me cause I wasn’t sure I had enough on the top of my head to design anything.  But Abbey greeted me with such enthusiasm, I figured I’d give it a go.

She escorted me to the back of the shop and sat me in a chair which was attached to a sink.  It reclined and at the top had a scoop cut out of the ceramic where you rested your neck.  My head just dangled about in the burgundy bowl.

Homegirl scrubbed my scalp like I was her dog.  She’d put some product of some sort on my head and just go to town.  She’d rinse and repeat.  She did that like four times.  My head must have been way, way dirty.  And she didn’t even get my clothes wet!

Man did it feel good.  I was gonna ask her to marry me, I mean the stuff she was doing was very personal.  Hmmm.  Perhaps I could just hire her to wash my hair on a daily basis.  Do people do that?

She asked me how I wanted my hair cut.  I told her the regular way.

She told me she was going to give me some style.

I’m not sure if she did.  But it was a nice haircut.  The only problem is that my bangs, the hair in the front, are really, really long.  This morning, on the way to church, I had to put them in a small banana clip to try to get my hair to dry in the away position rather than in my right eyeball.  As I walked down Morgan Street from the parking deck on our way to the sanctuary, I realized I had not removed the fastener from my head.  Stephanie was walking beside me, and we were having a conversation.

“Did you not realize the clip was still in my hair?” I asked.

“Yeah.  I sort of did,” she responded.

Did she just not put together that I don’t typically wear my hair in a partial ponytail or did she actually want me to walk into church looking like a 1980’s sorority girl?

Regardless, I now have a style, and I think I’ll go back because it was only $9 more than Supercuts.  And because Abbey has magic fingers.

Better With Age

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The snow in Raleigh this past week was a bit disappointing.  There was a smidge covering a solid layer of sleet.  You can’t make a snowman out of sleet.

In year’s past, Lisa and I worked hard on these days to keep the girls from climbing the walls: snow angels, sledding, hot chocolate and tons of soaking wet laundry.  We were exhausted by their bedtime.

All of my kids were home last weekend, and there we were – with no plans and no strong desire to venture out.  Thus the beauty of their ages: 19, 16 and 14.  We are beginning to enjoy the same sorts of things.

My youngest and I sipped a hot cup-o-joe together.  I remember similar imbibes with my grandmother at her white, speckled linoleum kitchen table.  Michelle nearly used an entire bag of sugar to get the brown liquid drinkable, but I started that way too.

Stephanie and I went On Demand and began watching a new TV show on NBC, This Is Us.  We are nearly caught up on the first season, something we can enjoy all semester.  What a pleasant change from Barney.

DJ is spending a lot of time working out right now, so I introduced her to Tony Horton, the 50-year-old hunk who leads P-90X.  I happen to own a collection of his exercise CD’s.  We did the shoulder and arm video.  She hates Tony as much as I do and agrees with me that he has a major crush on Dreya who exercises on the mat next to him throughout the video.

“Clearly something is going on between them.”

“Yeah, I noticed that too.”

On Saturday night, we played Trivial Pursuit.  But knowing we aren’t the smartest family on the block, we decided to change it up a bit.  We reassigned the color categories and made up questions of our own.  You landed on Brown?  The topic was Family, and your team had to answer a question that the opposite team made up like:  In which city was each of your grandparents born?  Or, where did your mother attend middle school?

Pink was questions about church.  Yellow about the camp they attend.  Orange was school.  Green miscellaneous.

It took us three hours to determine a winner, but man did we have fun.  Oh, we learned a lot about each other as well.  That’s not a game we could have played five years ago.

Sometimes I lament the aging of my kids.  I wish they were younger, that I had more time with them.  I long to carry them in my arms from the car to the house, their little noggins nestled between my neck and my shoulder.

That was a sweet age.  But you know, this is too.  I imagine in ten years I will enjoy them even more.

Perhaps it is not the stage they are going through that strengthens my delight.  Perhaps it is the depth of our relationship that makes each year more precious to me.

Home Again, Home Again Zip-pa-di-da

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She came in on a train direct from Union Station.  It was Friday night, the week before Christmas.  I was so joyful.  DJ, my college sophomore, was returning for an entire month!

I was committed to our performance in the Christmas Carol play so her grandmother picked her up.  DJ was in a hurry because she had agreed to bar tend at a neighbor’s Christmas party for cash.  I’m so proud – my daughter, a barmaid.

I was amazed that she got her suitcase into the house.  It was the size of a pirate chest, but heavier.  She dropped it in the kitchen, its innards spilled out under the bar – she apparently had a quick change.

I called my buddy Jack to see if he could help me get the Samsonite up to her bedroom.  He couldn’t come over until the next day.  So when she got home, we broke the contents up into four laundry baskets and then carried the almost empty case up on its own.  My grandmother always said, “You can eat an elephant in small pieces.”

I do love my girl.

She had plans on Saturday night and spent Sunday night with high school friends.

Tuesday she went to the beach with the same high school friends.  She returned Wednesday night.  We ate dessert together.  Quality time.

On Thursday she returned to the coast to meet a dude from college for dinner, the one she just spent an entire semester with.

“Honey, do you think you’ll be able to stop by the house to receive your gifts on Christmas day?”  I was just wondering if I should perhaps mail them to a friend’s house.  She assured me she was free for the entire day.

I love that child.

I enjoy the memories of times gone by when she visits:

  • her bedroom floor unfindable due to the mound of clothes
  • arguments over earrings borrowed from siblings
  • bras and socks on the kitchen counter

Memories – beautiful memories.

Oh, and when she’s here, three drivers get to share two cars!  I love sharing.  She loves getting up in the morning to drop me off in the work carpool line.  She even packs my lunch (just kidding).

“I’ll pick you up at 5:30 dad.  Be waiting for me in the lobby of your building because I have dinner plans at 6.”

Before break she called home and said, “Dad, I’m a little worried about being home for a full month for Christmas.”

Worried?  What’s there to worry about?  This is heaven on earth.

Merry Christmas!

A Bitmoji Christmas Card – xmas-card-2016-front

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(Card designed by DJ Tanner.)

A Single Parent Morning

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Do you see a battery here?

It was one of those days that being a single parent hurts.

It was 7:20: Stephanie had an exam at 8.  I was about to take Michelle to school.  The older headed out the door in a rush to meet a friend for some final cramming.

7:21 AM:  “Dad, my car won’t start!  HELP!”

Indeed, we had a dead battery.  I was buttoning my white, starched, dress shirt but my flannels and bedroom shoes were still on my bottom half.  I grabbed my keys knowing I’d be late to work.

7:22 AM:  I texted my co-worker informing her of my likely tardiness.

7:25.15 AM:  The gas is nearly out indicator light came on.

7:25.30.16 AM:  I cursed.

7:36 AM:  Stephanie jumped out of the car rushing to her exam.

Me:  “Can you find a ride home from school?”

Her:  “Probably.”

Me:  “If so, pick your sister up at 3:15, assuming I get the car started.  If not, hang tight.  I’ll pick you up at some point before bedtime!”

7:40 AM:  Me:  “Michelle.  Someone will pick you up after school today.  Keep your phone on.  If Stephanie or I can’t get there by 3:30, go to Panera.”

Michelle:  “I don’t have any money.”

Me:  “Neither do I – check the ashtray.”

Michelle:  “There’s only $1.63.”

Me:  “Give them our home phone number, I think we have enough Panera points for a free pastry.  Drink water if you can’t find another quarter.  I think  drink is like $2.”

Michelle:  “What can you get as a free pastry?”

Me:  “I think anything in the glass case.  Pick the most expensive thing.”

Michelle:  “What if I don’t like it?”

Me:  “Get it anyway.  We want to maximize our purchasing power.”

7:56 AM:  Dropped Michelle at school.

7:59 AM:  Arrived at the gas station.

8:01 AM:  Man in a pickup truck eyeballed my choice of clothing.

Get at me dude!

8:30 AM:  I open the hood on Stephanie’s car, a Mini-Cooper.

8:47:  I finally find the battery.  It is hidden in the back corner of the engine, in a small black plastic case.  What the heck???

8:35 AM:  Jump start; car starts.

10:12 AM:  My cell phone rings, I’m at work, it’s my neighbor.

Me:  “Charlie, what’s up?  Is everything OK?”

Charlie:  “Well, your house alarm is going off.  I have the police here.  I think your housekeeper set it off.”

Me:  “Officer.  She is my housekeeper.  I was supposed to leave the alarm off.  You see, the battery died, I had to get gas in my pajamas with my dress shirt on, my kid was gonna have to go to Panera unsupervised…”

Officer:  “Mr. Tanner.  Just go back to work.  It’s all good.”

Me:  “Thank you sir.”

One in the bed and the little one said…

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For me, there was one grandparent that stole my heart.  Oh, I loved them all.  One granddad took us to get a Slurpee every time we came to town – that was cool.  But this one, we called her Idee, was something else.  Her real name was Ivy but my brother couldn’t say that.  His inability to speak correctly stuck.  She was forever our Idee.

There is something about the grandparent who drops everything when you came to town, but the best part about Idee was she could relate to us.  I distinctly remember just lying on her bed while she got dressed.  She “put on her face” each morning while talking to me about life.  Who would have thought that a seventy-year-old woman could give a 12-year-old advice?  She could.  And I hung on her every word.

When I went to her house to spend the night as a kid, she would pile blankets on the living room floor and my brother and I, along with Idee and Papa, would sleep there.  Before midnight, she would ship my granddad back to the bedroom ’cause his snoring sounded like a freight train.  Come to think of it, perhaps that’s why she was so anxious to not stay the night in her bedroom.

When we arrived at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving last Wednesday, it dawned on me that the day beds in their playroom had four mattresses stored underneath.  For some reason, my holidays with Idee popped into my brain.

“Girls, we’re sleeping on the floor tonight!  Four in a row.”

“But dad, there are lots of beds in this house,” my maturing college sophomore explained to me.

“That, is not the point.”

We retired at around 11, but sleep did not come until much later.

We sang, “There were four in the bed and the little on said, ‘roll over, roll over,’ and one rolled over and one fell out when she hit the floor you could hear her shout.”  And as we rolled across the mattresses, one would hit the floor.

Michelle told us the story of Danny the Ogre.  He wouldn’t let his children drink sodas at restaurants.

We recanted songs that we sang at bedtime when they were young, “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tired and true…”

We named my future grand kids (Obediah, Boaz, Sheamus, Isabella, Minnie), and I chose a granddad name.

We laughed til it hurt, gossiped about most folks we know, and learned the moves to Juju on that beat.

Several days later, I’m still tired.  Although, it was certainly worth it.

More Parades

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Lisa’s sister, my niece, Michelle, Stephanie and me on parade day

You know what this world needs?  More parades!

For years Lisa and I took our girls down to her father’s office on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh for the annual Christmas Parade.  He would provide the essentials:  doughnuts, hot chocolate, coffee, a parking space and a bathroom.  Our kids would be PUMPED, ready to kick off the holiday season.

When the girls and I began participating in Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol play five years ago, our parade routine changed.  We were no longer spectators, we were full on participants.  We don our costumes and walk the two-mile route encouraging the onlookers to ignore Scrooge who is shouting through a bullhorn to the crowd:

“Go home!  Christmas has been cancelled this year.  We’re going to have two Halloweens instead!”

The adults laugh and often respond with “Humbug!”  Some of the kids get fairly angry at the notion emphatically communicating with a man who is rolling down the street in a robe with a Christmas ghost at his side.  “WE ARE NOT CANCELLING CHRISMAS MR. SCROOGE!”

Although this is my sixth year in the parade, I noticed something different this go round.  Perhaps it is the political climate that made me more in tune.

What I saw were people, lots of different people, sitting together, laughing together, smiling together.  A man twice my age with a different color of skin responded to my hat tip and “Merry Christmas” with a hat tip of his own.  A girl in a wheelchair had a smile on her face that showed every tooth in her head.  Kids from 2 to 14 held out their hands for a parade high-five.  Groups of unrelated people came together to yell, “Merry Christmas Mr. Scrooge!” in unison. There were carefree smiles for miles.

My heart aches when I watch the news.  I sometimes feel as if our problems are so deep seated that there is no way we can ever mend.  But last Saturday, I had hope.  I saw laughter, and joy, and happiness and unity, and it did my soul good.

My prayer for my family, my city, state and country is a perpetual parade.  May we all recognize our blessing this week and bestow grace upon each other.